Two briefings were delivered in Ontario today, the first by public health officials, who released updated projections driving COVID-19 decisions. They were followed by Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott, who announced that the government is developing a framework to “safely and thoughtfully” lift restrictions – but who also warned that the battle is far from over and that Ontarians need to maintain physical distancing. Updated Projections Public health officials Matthew Anderson (President and CEO of Ontario Health), Adalsteinn Brown (Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto), and Barbara Yaffe (Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health) provided updated projections and scenarios based on currently-available data. These projections update those that were delivered on April 3. Highlights:
Health experts say that the COVID-19 outbreak has likely peaked in Ontario. Projections show that Ontario’s COVID-19 outbreak is behaving like the best case scenario.
While earlier models predicted a peak in cases in May, public health interventions have accelerated the peak to now.
Spread in long-term care and other congregate settings is a major issue and seems to be growing.
Latest projections are for fewer than 20,000 cumulative cases in this province. (This is significantly lower than earlier projections, but Ford – anticipating Ontarians possibly reading into the lower numbers that the crisis has passed – emphasized that it’s too early to let down our collective guard.) The previous projections estimated Ontario having roughly 80,000 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic, with between 3,000 and 15,000 deaths. Officials did not provide an update on projected deaths due to ongoing outbreaks in long-term care homes.
If the best case scenario or medium scenario occur, the COVID-19 demand for ICU beds may drop to zero by May 20. Officials cautioned that this is only possible if Ontarians continue to adhere to public health measures, including social distancing.
If restrictions were lifted today, Ontario would track towards a scenario similar to what Italy experienced, pushing the peak out drastically and resulting in an aggressive surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
Premier Ford said his government is focusing resources and efforts on prevention and management of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes. This includes aggressive testing, screening and surveillance for residents and staff.
In addition, the province will continue implementing enhanced public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and further flatten the curve.
Framework for Reopening Ontario
Ford has asked the Jobs and Recovery Committee to develop a framework for the gradual, measured and safe reopening of Ontario based on the best available data. Ford noted that the framework will include key criteria that must be met before restrictions can begin to be lifted, and reiterated that the health and safety of Ontarians must remain the number one priority.
Asked for his thoughts on an actual timeframe for the reopening to commence – a question admittedly on many minds – Ford wouldn’t bite. He acknowledged he has heard that the global automotive sector is considering May 4 to start gradually resuming operations, but insisted no decision has been made – and will not until health experts indicate it’s safe.
Update on Parliament
Federally, the Conservatives (the official opposition) have introduced an amendment to the Liberal proposed plan for how the House of Commons will be convened going forward. The Conservative amendment offers two in-person and one virtual meeting every week. However, it will likely be defeated and the original proposal (one in-person sitting, plus 90-minute virtual sittings) will eventually be adopted despite the lack of support from the Tories.
*Above summary by Enterprise Canada